"This week has truly changed me. My old ideas are completely removed, my skills have been increased, my mind is more open than ever... I came in as a writer, and I'm leaving a journalist."
So reported senior Matthew Kolbert, 17, in his final blog post for the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists, a week-long program offered by Stony Brook University's School of Journalism.
He and 20 other students from across Long Island lived in a campus dormitory, working each day from around 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Kolbert said.
He described an intensive, hands-on program, perhaps a reflection of the spirit of its namesake, long-time Newsday reporter Bob Greene, a faculty member at the university until his passing in 2007.
"Journalism is more than just writing a story," Kolbert said.
He learned how to use photo and video to narrative effect, and what it felt like to return from an event without enough material. He noted his improved ability to "face up to the editing process."
His capacity for open-mindedness stood out, said instructor Wasim Ahmad, a professor of multimedia journalism at the university.
"During the week, his outgoing nature made him a natural fit with the members of his team, and he produced some excellent work on some very tight deadlines," Ahmad said in an email. "I personally appreciated his open mind - he's receptive and willing to learn from criticism, and he's willing to adapt and change his views as he incorporates new information."
Ahmad noted Kolbert's reflection on his view of sports writers in one blog post, where he admits previously designating members of the field "jocks of the journalism world."
A sports writer's cleverness convinced him otherwise, and left him with an appreciation for the man's task.
"News is news, it pulls interest on that privilege alone," he wrote. "Sports writers need to convince the reader that this game wasn’t 'just another game' every time."
That ability to let his perspective evolve comes from a student who naturally harbors passionate feelings about things, according to teacher Arlene Munson, editor of the high school's newspaper, The Cove-er Times.
"He takes very strong positions," she said.
"I usually go into things with a strong opinion but I learn more to be informed," said Kobert, who lists environmental issues, war and genocide as main areas of interest.
Munson called him a gifted writer.
"You really get to know who he is through his writing," she said.
For Kolbert, writing and the craft he pursues are tools he can use to better understand himself and the world around him.
"So far, it seems I’m learning much more than journalism here at the Robert Greene Institute," he wrote in a blog post. "I’m learning to be open to changing myself and the way I look at the world."
Editor's Note: Matthew has shadowed Patch on assignment in the past and is discussing opportunities for future participation with the site.